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I am reorganizing my sitemaps. I am breaking some large sitemaps into smaller ones, merging some and so on. More importantly I am renaming all the sitemaps (I am assigning meaningful suffixes reflecting site sections). I am also in the process of creating a sitemap index file so that management becomes easier in the long run.

To achieve the above objectives, I am deleting the existing sitemaps from search console and from the root folder of my server. My understanding is that Google will stop crawling old sitemaps. Following that I will be adding the new sitemaps to the server and search console.

Note: My site URLs are not going to change. Just that I am organizing the URLs in separate baskets for better administration. The site I am working on is a reasonably large one with over 10000 indexed URLs.

Should I take any specific precautionary measures before such a sweeping change?

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Go ahead and reorganize your sitemaps without any precautions.

Sitemaps have almost no bearing on how your site is crawled, indexed, and ranked. Google will continue to crawl, index, and rank your pages even if you completely delete your sitemaps without replacing them.

Sitemaps only do a few things:

  • Give you extra information in search console.
  • Give Google an idea about your preferred URLs. In the absence of canonical tags or redirects, Google will tend to prefer the URLs listed in your sitemap when it encounters internally duplicated content.
  • Let Google know about URLs that are not linked from anywhere. Googlebot will come and crawl the URLs, however Google probably won't index such URLs until they are linked. Even if they are indexed, they won't be able to rank for anything competitive.

See:The Sitemap Paradox

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    Sitemaps are also an influence when Google is working out canonicalisations. I would submit the new ones first, then remove the old ones. That way Google will always have a complete URL list to work off. – Tony McCreath Aug 2 '18 at 1:29
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    I've added that to my answer. If you have duplicate URLs and don't use canonical tags, your sitemaps could be helping Google choose your preferred URLs. – Stephen Ostermiller Aug 2 '18 at 1:55

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